A federal appeals court quickly allowed Texas to ban most abortions on Friday night, with various clinics in the state rushing to serve patients again for the first time since early September.
Texas abortion providers were ready to appeal to the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals for speedy action, even booking new appointments and reopening their doors during a brief break from a law known as Senate Bill 8, which prohibits abortion if cardiac activity is detected, usually About six weeks.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman, one of Barack Obama’s appointees, suspended Texas law, which he called an “offensive deprivation” of a constitutional right to abortion. But in a one-page order, the New Orleans-based appellate court temporarily stayed Pitman’s verdict while it considered state appeals.
The court gave the Biden administration until Tuesday to respond to the lawsuit.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents several abortion clinics in Texas, called on the U.S. Supreme Court to “stop and stop this madness.”
“Patients are being returned to a state of chaos and fear,” said Nancy Northup, president of the organization.
There were about two dozen abortion clinics in Texas before the Sept. 1 law went into effect, and not all Texas abortion providers began service within 48 hours of the law being stuck. Many physicians feared such a speedy return from the Court of Appeal, which risked putting them in legal danger.
The new law threatens to sue Texas abortion providers from private citizens, who are entitled to at least $ 10,000 in compensation if successful. The reason for this fancy approach to implementation is that earlier this week Texas was able to avoid the previous wave of legal challenges.
The same appellate court allowed the law to take effect in September, and Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Pactson’s office took action at this point within hours of urging them to act.
His office told the court that since the state does not enforce the law, “it cannot be held responsible for filing private citizens who are unable to resist Texas.”
It’s not clear how many abortions clinics in Texas have had in the short time since the law was suspended. On Thursday, at least six abortion providers resumed normal service or were ready to do so, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Prior to Pitman’s 113-page order, other courts refused to close the law, which prohibited abortion before some women became pregnant. These include the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, which allowed the law to proceed in September without ruling on its constitutionality.
One of the first providers to resume normal services is Whole Women’s Health, which operates four clinics in Texas.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Women’s Health, said her clinics called some patients Thursday morning who were on the list if the law was blocked at any time. Other appointments were in the process of being scheduled for the next few days, and the phone lines were busy again. But some of the clinic’s 17 doctors still refuse to have abortions, fearing they may be held responsible despite a judge’s order.
Pitman’s order is equivalent to the first legal blow to Senate Bill 8, which prevented a wave of previous challenges. Within weeks of the bans taking effect, Texas abortion providers said the effect was “exactly what we feared.”
Pitman took Texas to his opinion.
Pitman, appointed to the bench of former President Barack Obama, wrote, “Since the moment SB8 came into force, women have been barred from illegally controlling their lives in ways protected by the Constitution.”
Abortion providers say their fears have become a reality within a short time of the law taking effect. Planned Parenthood says the number of patients at his clinic from Texas has dropped by about 80% in the two weeks since the law went into effect.
Some providers say clinics in Texas are now at risk of closing as neighboring states fight to retain patients who have to drive hundreds of miles for abortions. Other women, they say, are being forced to carry the pregnancy term.
It is unknown how many abortions have been performed in Texas since the law went into effect. State health officials say additional reporting requirements under the law will not provide the September information on its website until early next year.
A 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision barred states from banning abortions before they could take effect, at a time when the fetus could survive outside the womb, at about 24 weeks of gestation. But the Texas version has so far outgrown the court because it applies to suing private citizens, not prosecutors, which critics say is a favor.